Abstract: The consumption pattern in the north requires an intensive exploitation of natural resources in the south of the world, making some countries totally depending from the sale of their natural resources. The global north needs to stop consumption without limits of our environment and people must be aware that these limits exist, due to the finiteness of our world. Our lifestyles have a major impact on the living conditions of those living in places rich in natural resources: local communities not only cannot decide whether and how to exploit them, but they are forced to suffer the externalities without enjoying the benefits. Therefore our lifestyles and consumption patterns should be marked by sobriety in order to protect our common home, the earth, knowing that pollution knows no borders. Moreover, the environmental degradation is determined not only upstream by the deep exploitation of the natural elements, but also downstream by the production of huge quantities of waste and scrap, the disposal of which requires the use of additional resources and causes more pollution.
The exploitation of natural elements is strongly guided by the private sector with a lack of participation of the concerned local communities. Institutions and public development actors had play, so far, a little role in ensuring an effective public participation in the decision making processes and public accountability in the resource exploitation. On the contrary many southern governments still faces constraints in achieving a genuine democratic governance and keep the political and economic power concentrated in economical and ethnical elites. In this framework, in the last two decades, new forms of governance have worsened the situation. Among them the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that are profitable business for private sector with very limited benefit for southern countries and local communities: weak government are pushed to sign contracts with unfavourable conditions for the public, risk of private sector access on natural monopolies, increase on inequalities due to tariffs, etc. Other new forms of governance coming from the climate negotiations provisions, instead of compensating southern communities for the climate debt accumulated by northern countries, are even exacerbating this situation. Mechanisms like CDM (Clean Development Mechanisms) and REDD (Reducing emissions from deforestation forest degradation) are, indeed, proving to increase the inequalities and need to be monitored.
This situation leads to an increased political and economical concentration in southern countries and to the consequent marginalization of communities located in remote areas and relying on traditional socio-cultural patterns. These communities are systematically disempowered by central governments which usually encourage large foreign investors operations giving away the full control of basic resources such are land, water, forests. Moreover, natural resources play a well established role in fuelling and sustaining conflict. The only ingredient that can make the difference and invert this situation is the scrutiny of governments by the citizens and the local communities’ empowerment in reclaiming the right to control their own resources. Resources should not only considered as such, or in other words as inputs for the economic system, but should be regarded as commons goods, which require a participative an collective governance.
Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.